A downtown apartment building and restaurant were gutted by a Friday morning blaze in Leamington, although a dramatic rescue prevented any serious injuries.
The Darina Shawarma and Bakery on the east side of Erie Street North, immediately north of The Gingerbread House Family Restaurant, took on extensive damage from a fire reported to Leamington Fire Services at 7:02 a.m. Friday, Sept. 15. Upon arrival, Leamington firefighters spotted an adult male leaning out of a second-floor window yelling for assistance. With a stairway at the back of the building connecting the two floors destroyed by the early effects of the blaze, the man was trapped in the apartment above the building.
Firefighters placed a ladder under the window and extracted the individual from the smoke-filled structure before turning their attention to the building itself. The man was treated for minor smoke inhalation and released a short time later. There were no other occupants in the restaurant or either of the two apartments at the time of the fire.
“I saw a guy hanging out of the window yelling ‘help! help!’ and called 9-1-1,” explained Vickie Dorey, who was riding her bicycle to work when she stopped to talk to a pedestrian about the smoke they had seen a moment before spotting the man. “Just after that, they (Leamington firefighters) came around the corner and got him out with a ladder.”
Dorey is no stranger to the effects of being displaced by fire. She was one of 24 people residing in the apartment complexes above the Sunset Club/former Village Inn that was destroyed by a blaze in July of 2012.
“There were people on the ground screaming too,” she continued. “There was a lot of smoke pouring out of the building.”
In total, 39 firefighting personnel tended to the scene — 19 from Leamington Fire Services, nine from the Kingsville Fire Department and another nine from Lakeshore who were assigned mostly to standby duty along with the two pumper trucks they brought. The LFS utilized both of its aerial trucks while another was brought in from Kingsville. Pumper trucks from both Leamington and Kingsville were used to bring the fire under control by 12:44 p.m.
Leamington Fire Services estimated the damage to the building — including contents — at $450,000. The Ontario Fire Marshall’s office was contacted for consultation, although the Fire Marshall was not called to the scene. The cause of the blaze has been filed as undetermined, although it is believed that it initially broke out near the back of the building on the main floor.
Leamington Fire Services deputy chief Mike Bradt explained that the building was too unstable for firefighters to enter. Whether or not the restaurant and two apartment units directly above it will be demolished will ultimately be determined by the owners’ insurance company. Despite the close proximity of the neighbouring building — Mix’d Viet Fusion Foods — the structures are divided by separate walls and the more northerly of the two was affected by only smoke and minor water damage.
Because of the extensive smoke emitting from the Darina Shawarma and Bakery building, Erie Street North businesses from Talbot Street to Nelson Street were evacuated and cut off from hydro as precautionary measures. No surrounding structures were damaged by the fire.
“Everyone did an excellent job. It was a well coordinated effort by all, and not just with firefighters,” said Bradt, who noted that a citizen allowed LFS and assisting personnel to view the aerial footage from a drone brought to the scene.